Parents have the right to homeschool their children even without a teaching credential, a state appeals court ruled Friday to the applause of conservative groups.
The ruling, made by the Second District Court of Appeal in Los Angeles, reverses a decision the court made in February that required parents to have a teaching credential if educating children at home, potentially threatening an estimated 166,000 homeschoolers in California.
"This is a great victory for homeschool freedom," said Michael Farris, an attorney with the Home School Legal Defense Association.
HSLDA was one of many homeschool advocates and religious groups that protested the February ruling, which some called an "assault" on the family.
Dr. James Dobson, founder and chairman of Focus on the Family, had told thousands listening to his radio broadcast at the time to make their voices heard against what he considered an egregious decision.
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger also denounced the ruling and had vowed to ensure the right to homeschool.
Praising Friday's decision, the California governor said, "I hope the ruling settles this matter for parents and home-schooled children once and for all in California, but assure them that we, as elected officials, will continue to defend parents' rights," according to the Los Angeles Times.
Parents in California have traditionally been allowed to homeschool their children as long as they filed paperwork establishing themselves as private schools, hired credentialed tutors, or enrolled their children in independent study programs run by charter or private schools or public school districts.
But when Phillip and Mary Long, whose children were or had been enrolled at Sunland Christian School and taught at home, were accused of mistreating some of their eight children, lawyers representing the two youngest Long children asked the court to require them to attend a public or private school.
The court ruled that the family was violating state laws since Mary Long did not have a teaching credential and that Sunland officials' occasional monitoring of the Longs' teaching methods were insufficient to qualify as being enrolled in a private school.
The Long family, Sunland Christian School, and others appealed the decision and the ruling was revisited with arguments heard in June.
The court, in its new decision, concluded that homeschools may constitute private schools but it added that the right of homeschoolinng can be overridden if a child's safety is at issue.
"Tens of thousands of California parents teaching over 166,000 homeschooled children are now breathing easier this afternoon," said Farris.